The top 5 earthwork progress-tracking workflows

The top 5 earthwork progress-tracking workflows

Earthwork projects are highly intricate, requiring meticulous planning, coordination, and execution. With so many moving parts, it’s incredibly difficult to manage it all and keep projects running smoothly—especially when you add change orders, rework, and other unforeseen challenges to the mix.

The secret to making it all happen? Accurate progress tracking.

After all, even the most detailed map is only as valuable as your ability to understand where you are within it. The same is true for earthwork—understanding your progress against the plan helps you reevaluate and make good decisions as you work.

Tracking progress might not sound all that sexy, but it’s the key to keeping tabs on daily work, managing budgets, and making the most efficient use of time and resources. 

In this post, we’ll dive into the top five progress-tracking workflows that will help you understand your position and keep your projects on time and on budget.

#1: Generate better estimates with accurate earthwork volumes

Accurately estimating the scope of an earthwork project can make the difference between winning and losing the bid—not to mention the difference between a project that propels your business forward and one you complete at a loss.

Even small mistakes can be costly:

  • Overestimating material to move: Your quote isn’t competitive, and you lose the tender.
  • Underestimating material to move: You win the tender but move more material than you’re paid for, risking an overall loss.
  • Missing your deadlines: You plan to move a certain amount in a set time frame, but you miscalculate how much you have to move. Now the project is weeks behind.

Any of these estimation errors can shrink your profit margins and—depending on the project size—could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Propeller helps evaluate current on-site conditions against what you’re building toward. By calculating how close you are to a balanced site, you can make design adjustments that get you closer to balance well before work ever gets started.

“You put in these civil elevations and [Propeller] will tell us, you’ve got more dirt to add over here, more cut to add over here. We’re not hauling off extra dirt, we’re keeping and maintaining the most accurate amount of dirt that we need.” — Area Superintendent Andrew Low, Hensel Phelps

#2: Track progress with cut/fill volumes in Propeller

How much earth should you move per week to keep up with the project timeline, and how efficiently are you working? Tracking accurate cut and fill volumes is still critical once work is underway, but conducting traditional surveys can be expensive and risky. 

With Propeller, you simply fly a drone over your site and let us take it from there. Once we’ve processed your survey data (within ~24 hours), it only takes a few clicks to calculate cut and fill volumes for the current terrain and compare them to reference levels, past surveys, and design surfaces. 

Tracking your progress over time is like having a progress meter for your site. You can verify billable quantities with subcontractors, share progress with clients, and make changes as needed to see projects through to a successful finish. No more guesswork—just clear, measurable progress.

And if regular drone surveys aren’t enough, DirtMate lets you dig into your day-to-day equipment movement to understand exactly how efficient your worksite is and where you can improve. The Dirtmate dashboard allows project managers and foremen to track truck cycle counts while determining the efficiency of the team from both fuel burn and equipment activity.

DirtMate attached to a machine

#3: Verify as-built conditions by exporting cut/fill volumes to other applications

We know every project has its own set of unique challenges. That’s why we make it easy to export cut and fill volumes to other applications for those projects that require you to work within other software stacks or employ specific workflows.

Exporting cut and fill volumes enables more advanced takeoffs, which is essential when you’re dealing with different strata or layer types. Propeller makes all of your data downloadable in industry-standard file formats, including DXF, TIFF, TTM, LAZ, OBJ, JPG, PDF, and CSV. You can also use it within a wide range of coordinate reference systems from published coordinate systems or localized calibrations.


#4: Prevent disputes and rework with a full surface analysis

Studies show that rework can cost as much as 20% of your contract value, and the cost of disputes has stayed at historically high levels since 2020. Underloading trucks, incorrect truck counts, and incorrectly estimating material moved can easily distort your results by up to 30%. As those in the business know, this can add up to losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

With Propeller, you don’t need to guess—you know. Track actual progress and resolve disputes with evidence-based data, collected in cycle with claims. And with the right information at your fingertips, you can go above and beyond just stopping the bleeding by making better decisions about what to do next at each project stage. 

Great decision-making requires more than just calculations. You need accurate data about the condition of your site surface over time. Need contour, elevation, or gradient maps? We’ve got them, and they’re easy to access within the platform or distribute to stakeholders as PDF or JPEG exports. 

You can also get surface runoff and drainage data to keep tabs on how your surface conforms to the design. Our Timeline tool even lets you time travel, getting a step-by-step look at your worksite at every survey to identify trouble spots before they turn into disputes or delays.

“Having access to real-time information makes us as a business more efficient and more agile, and our engineers can make better decisions, quicker. This tool really empowers them. There’s better planning and more efficiency in what we do, day in and day out. That in turn gives program certainty to our clients and to us” — Jonathan Wills, Director at Wills Bros

#5: Assess progress against design from the field

Everyone working an earthwork job needs to stay on the same page. That’s why Propeller lets you take control from the field by generating instant cut/fill maps and real-time measurements. Compare cut/fill to your grading plan in the moment, not just in the office. 

With Propeller, your whole team can instantly understand what needs doing and where. Just tap to see the remaining vertical distance to hit your desired reference level or design from any point. The app also makes it easy to see where you are on-site, pinpointing your position on the 3D map.

Site workers using Propeller mobile on tablet and smartphone

With instant access to all the information they need, workers stay safe on solid ground while drones survey uneven, high-traffic, or downright dangerous terrain from the air. 

Ready to make your next project a resounding success? Get in touch today to learn how Propeller can transform your business.


We’re happy to show you how Propeller can power your worksite, and boost productivity. Simply request a demo now.

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